Monday, November 30, 2009

Blood Lust

What is the big deal with vampires? Dracula was first published in 1897, and it seems that vampires have been a frequent icon in popular literature ever since. Dracula was not the first vampire tale ever told. And today vampires are the hottest thing around.

Back in the 90’s Buffy put a new more feminist face on the vampire story. Then Bella came along and quickly implanted sparkly vampires into every teenage girl’s fantacy. I have to be honest, I didn’t particularly like Dracula when I read it back in college, and I never watched Buffy. I did enjoy the Twilight series, it might not be high art, but it is definately entertaining.

I watched New Moon a week ago and enjoyed that a lot too. The CGI of the wolves was a bit corny, and the actor playing Jacob is a lot hotter than the actor playing Edward, which detracted from the Edward is the hottest man alive plot point. But for the most part I felt that it stuck to the plot of the book and entertained sufficently.

Last weekend I also caught my first eposode of The Vampire Diaries. Granted I did see a mid-season episode without any pervious context, but I wasn’t thrilled with what I saw. From the one episode I caught I figured out that some of the vampires are good and others are bad and they are living among humans and fighting for blood and justice. While these TV vampires don’t glitter in the sun, they do match more of the Twilight world rules than the Dracula world rules. Mainly I just felt like Vampire Diaries is trying to ride the Twilight money making wave, and the show wasn't adding anything new or interesting to the world of vampires.

Today I listened to a completely different vampire novel – You Suck by Christopher Moore. You Suck is nothing like Twilight, it attempts to be a humorous version of Dracula and I half expect Moore has never read anything written by Meyer. If you love Twilight but generally hate horror, You Suck probably isn’t for you. But if you enjoy a humorous spoof on horror that pokes fun at human fears and desires, then you will probably love You Suck.

Here is a longer list of comparisons between the vampires of Meyer and Moore


Bodies go lifeless (effectively dead) at sunrise

Passionate biting sex

Shave a cat before drinking its blood to avoid a mouth full of hair

Can drink from humans without killing them

Vampire gets drunk after feeding on drunken homeless guy

Vampires need human minuons (normally goth teenagers) to do their bidding during the day

The humane way to hunt is to eat terminally ill patiants shortly before they would die anyway


Bodies sparkle in the sun

Steamy hand holding but absolutely no sex before marrage

Hunting for mountain lions in the woods without getting remotely dirty

Biting a human can lead only to death or transformation and is always painful for human

Nobody does drugs or drinks alcohol in Forks

Vampires must keep their identities hidden under all costs

The humane way to hunt is to eat animals

Joke of the Day
What does a vampire fear most?
Tooth Decay

Friday, November 27, 2009


I love the fact that the largest non-religious holiday in American is a celebration of gluttany. My ansestors might not have attended the first Thanksgiving, but I made sure to eat enough this year to make up for their 18th century imigration status. Yesturday, I entertained 20 hungery friends and relatives. We didn't hold back on anything, and a good time was had by all.

Our dining room can't seat 20, 12 maybe, but not 20. But considering the youngest person at our gathering was 17 (and I was the second youngest person) sticking a kids table in the kitchen didn't seem like a viable option either. So we simply moved all of our livingroom furniture into the garagae and set up a giant table for 20 in the living room. Having all of our couches in the garage worked great, because we purchased a second used oven at a smoking low price and hooked it up to our dryer plug-in in the garage. So not only could people sit around and cabits out there, they could cook too.

The appetizer course in the garage consitsted of squash soup, smoked salmon, cheeze/crackers/cold cuts, veggies/dip, apple/carmle, dried fruit, olives, and pickles. And naturally some genrous porsions of wine too.

Once social hour carport style was over we dug into the real feast. Our thanksgiving dinner consisted of a smoked turkey, a deep fried turkey, a ham, two kinds of stuffing, mash potatoes, gravy, yam/apple casoral, green bean caserol, grilled asparagous, cranberry chuttney, orenges, corn bread, rolls (homebaked), butter (home churned), and more wine. It was delicious.

After dinner we played a few cut throat card games while our food digested before digging into desert. Which consisted of pumpkin pie, apple/cranberry pie, strawberry/rubarb pie, and ice cream. Once all the pie was eaten we played somemore cards before crawling off to collaps into food comas.

Instead of spending black Friday at the mall, I had to move all my livingroom furniture back into my house. But now the couch is were it belongs, my refrigerator is overflowing with yummy left overs, and I still love thanks-jiven.

Joke of the Day
What did the turkey say right before it was roasted?
"Boy, I'm stuffed."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Attack of the Day Dream

So far November has been a bit of a whirl wind as far as the wonderings of my mind are concerned. At the beginning of the month I set myself a goal of not reading or listening to any books for the entire month of November. My feeling was that this would force me to think about a new book and I would eventually start writing a lot more.

I did start writing a new book during the first week of November, but it never went anywhere and after about 5000 words and an outline I gave up. I may come back to the idea sometime down the line, but I just didn't care about any of the characters and I couldn't modivate myself to write about it.

I also got really board at work. I've gotten so good at multi-tasking that not listening to audio books while working is difficult. After a week of unispiring music, I gave up and started listening again. I continued to attempt to write for another week before I scrapped my new story all together.

Then all of a sudden, creativity set in. I started thinking about my old characters, from my last book. The novel that I wrote last year is YA and stars an entertaining group of 16 year olds. In my mind these kids are now all 19 - and they are still fabulously entertaining. I really don't want to write down what I'm thinking about right now. Sequils never work - if a long story is written as a series it can be gripping and powerful, but when a book works well alone it should stay alone. Sequil for the pure sake of sequil tends to read really flat and boaring.

To make matters worse, I've rewritten my last book in my mind. Not the whole thing - I just decided to kill off the mother of one of my main characters. In the book that I wrote, this characters parents our divorsed. But for the sake of my new daydream it works way better if his mom is actually dead. So I'm just letting her be dead in my mind now, but she can stay alive and neglectful in the book I already wrote.

So here I am, November is almost over, my mind is spinning with lots of great characters going on great adventures. I've only listened to five books this month (I read or listened to 24 books in October), and I still don't have a new book to write. But I'm not board - so I'm not complaining.

Joke of the Day
I'm trying to daydream but my mind keeps on wandering.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Creative Dyslexic - A Result of Brain Geometry

A new study was just published in the Harvard Medical Journal that corrilates a decreased lower posterior corpus callosum area of the brain with dyslexia and ADD. What does that mean? Well according to the good people over at Harvard the corpus callosum is the part of the brain that connects the right and left hemispheres. So it helps to coordinate thoughts between the two sections of the brain.

When the lower posterior corpus callosum is deminished in size, it causes an increase in divergent thinking. Since the two parts of the brain are less linked, the mind is able to further develope divergent thoughts. In other words, the brain is naturally more creative. Studies have shown that people with smaller corpus callosums are more creative than people with standard corpus callosums. So the question is no longer are you left brained or right brained, but instead do you two brains know how to communicated?

Having a diminished corpus callosum is not the cause of dyslexia or ADD. The world has many highly creative people with tiny corpus callosums who read great. But this latest study indicates that the percentage of dyslexics with diminished corpus callosums in higher than that of the non-dyslexic population.

This doesn’t really surprize me. My experence has always been that brain weirdnesses come in clusters. When ever one thing is off, the possibility of everything else being wacked is greatly increased. Also looking at the list of famous dyslexics makes it easy to recognise we tend to be a creative group. Still it is nice to know that the nerds over in Boston are doing their part to add proof to my speculation. Plus it makes me feel good about myself knowing there is one more official advantage to sucking at reading.

Joke of the Day
One person with ADD said to another, "I got a new cookbook, but I could never do anything with it."
The other person with ADD replied, "So the reciepies all contained unussual ingreedence?"
"Exactly, every single one said 'Start with a Clean Dish'."

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Global Economy

I know that up until this point, this has not been an economics blog, and venturing into that field might not be what my readers want, but it seems like I end up talking to people about economics almost every day. So I’m tempted to bring the debate online.

I’ll start by grounding myself. I was raised in an upper middle class family, I have multiple college degrees (anthropology and engineering), and both my husband and I are currently employed as engineers. I’m kind of a snob, and its easy for me to think – I want a beach house, I want a yatch, I want, I want, I want. So then I think about possibly making less money and I have to frown.

To make matters even worse, the company that my husband works for recently announced their plan to move all their manufacturing facilities to China. Design work will still be done in the US, and currently my husband’s job appears secure. But when 80% of the companies US employese are laid off, it is hard to take comfort in that security. So I understand the reality of the rising unemployment rate, and I personally know multiple people with Ivy League educations whose jobs are being outsourced.

But then there is another part of me that says, stop acting like such a snob. This isn’t only a problem that I face. It is a problem that all American’s are facing. We are a country full of spoiled brats. There are certain things that are basic needs – food, clean drinking water, basic shelter. Many people in the world are currently living without these things. And out sourcing is bring much needed jobs and capital to the developing world and will as a result greatly increase the quality of many human’s lives.

Cable TV on the other hand is not a basic human need. And owning a yatch is certainly not required for servival. Maybe if we as American’s stopped feeling entitled to all of the things that 95% of the world population would never even dream of, we will be happier living in this new global economy.

Even though I was raised deep in the trenches of the upper middle class, I have had the opertunity to meet several people that refer to themselves as idependently poor. These people have always made money somehow, working as artists, doing odd jobs, and repairing and reselling damaged goods. These people might not have hundereds of thousands of dollars tucked away in their 401K’s, but that just means that they didn’t feel as much pain when the stock market popped. But for the most part I would say that all the independently poor people that I know are far happier than the people who own multiple pieces of vaccation property that they never have time to visit.

I never want to go without food or water, and I tend to get cold easily so having shelter would be nice too. But I’m already happily living without cable TV. If my husbands job is outsorced, we will be able to servive on my income until he finds something else. And while we are both employed, we need to remember to invest our money wisely so that we will have both the security to live through a rainy day, and the flexibility to eventually stop working. And we don’t need to go buy a yatch.

I do want a beach house and a yatch, because I’m sure at some level I will always be a snob. But I also want the people in China to have enough food to eat, and I want the people in South America to have clean drinking water. And I want the joy in my life to come from the people I interact with and the experiences I embrace – not the size of my 401K. Being independently wealthy might be a pipe dream, but I think I could be really happy independently poor.

Joke of the Day
The economy is so bad a picture is now only worth 200 words.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Read or Not To Read

Yesturday, Natalie Whipple over at Between Fact and Fiction had a post about how everyone can and should be a reader. Her message was that people who don’t think they like to read, just need to hunt more diligently for a book they will love. Her post reminded me of an experience I had when I was 16 years old.

Let me set the scene for you. I was an uber-dork – took all honors and AP classes, captain of the mathletes, ect. Except that I read at a second grade reading level, so I was stuck in bonehead English instead of honors English. I got all my text books on tape, and I also listened to three or four books for pleasure per week. At the time I filled all my audio book needs via RFB&D (recordings for the blind and dyslexic). This meant that I had to know the author and title of a book before I ordered it from RFB&D, so I was always on the lookout for good book recomendations.

Now enters my friend Nathan. Nathan was also an uber-dork – took honors and AP everything (including English), captain of the chess club, ect. For some reason I thought since Nathan managed to get a hire grade than me in Physics, he might be a reader too. So I asked him, “have you read any good books lately?”

His answer, “I like reading Calvin & Hobs, does that count?”

I was floored. Nathan was smart, he probably taught himself how to read when he was four or something. But he didn’t do it. He didn’t read. He just did his homework, and then built robots and stuff like that in his spare time. I couldn’t understand why anyone who could read wouldn’t want to. There was nothing in the world I wanted more than to be able to read. I just couldn’t get it.

Now let’s fast forward about fifteen years. I am now married to yet another uber-dork. He is an electrical engineer by day, and in his free time he enjoys fishing, woodworking, restoring antique farm equipment, and inventing zany new contraptions in his shop. The guy is definitely smart, and way to productive for his own good. But he doesn’t read. In the six years I’ve known him, I’ve seen him read exactly one book – and I wrote it. He doesn’t like watching movies either, and the only TV show he likes is Mythbusters.

When we go on long car trips, my husband never complains when I subject him to audio books. His problem with reading is simply that it requires sitting still, which he hates to do. So I write books, and my husband invents new fangled fishing loors. We are both entertained, so it shouldn’t really matter that we have different hobbies. Still, when I read a really good book that I know he would love it always pains me a little bit – knowing that he will never read it.

And as for me. I’m still a dorky engineer who is constantly plugged into audio books. Only now I am capable of reading dust jackets and usually do a pretty good job of finding titles to keep myself entertained, without depending on the recomendations of the non-reading computer nerds I live with.

Joke of the Day

Once there was a lady in on an airplane with a poodle. The man sitting next to her was smoking a big cigar, even though they were on a no smoking flight. The lady was seated in an exit row, so she opened the airplanes door and threw out the man’s cigar. The man then grabbed the poodle and through it out the door. The pilot saw what had happened and quickly did a loop-d-loop and the poodle landed on the wing of the plane. In the poodles mouth was the brick from Monday’s joke.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Change of Plans

I have decided to shelve the book I’m suppsedly writing indefinately. This really isn’t a very big sacrifice, concidering I’ve only written about 5000 words. Basically I’ve decided that writing when I’m not in the mood is never a good idea. Not because my time is precious or anything like than, but simply because the things I come up with are total crap.

I heard the first sentance of my last novel in a dream. I woke up the next morning and started writing. I didn’t stop until I had a completed novel that I felt happy with eight months later. At first there was only one voice in my head, asking me to tell her story. But as I wrote, I began to hear other voices and the stories cast of characters fanned out and came to life. Writing was fun, writing was addictive. Even when I wasn’t writing I spent every waking hour thinking about the characters in my novel.

I finished that book about a year ago. Since then I’ve written about 2/3rds of a first draft of a memoir, I’ve written this blog, and I’ve read or listened to more than 100 books written by other people. But I haven’t caught that addiction to writing again. I haven’t dreampt up a new story that I felt an uncontrolable urge to write down.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about anything. In the past year, I’ve invented about a half a dozen casts of characters. Some have been interesting, and some have been ordenary. But their stories have all had major problems that told me without question that a book about their lives could never find a market. They weren’t stories ment to be written down, they were just stories meant to entertain me.

The book that I started two weeks ago in my half hearted attempt at NaNoWriMo, wasn’t about a character who has taken over my conciousness. Instead it was a plot that I thought might have a market and consisted of characters that I didn’t know or care about. The result is simple. I don’t care about this story. Writing feels like a chore, and everything that I write is flat and lifeless. Nobody will want to read what I’m writing right now. I don’t even want to read what I’m writing right now. So why am I writing it?

Last weekend I went camping – yes in November. I know I’m insane. I didn’t bring anything to read or write, I just hung out in the rain and did a lot of day dreaming. The story I invented for myself over the weekend had nothing to do with what I’m supposed to be writing. It also wouldn’t work as a novel. But it entertained me during a wet rainy weekend.

So I’m just going to take a step back and trust myself. I’m only 30 years old, and I daydream 24/7. Obvoisly, I will write another novel. But I don’t need to force it. When a character wakes me up at night begging me to write – I will. But when I find myself board with my own writing, well then maybe I should just read a book and think about something else for a while.

Joke of the Day
Once there was a man who decided to build a house. He carefully counted out all of the bricks he needed before he began construction. But when he was finished with the house, he had one brick left over. So he threw it in the air.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Shack

I have broken my own rule. I set a goal for myself to not read or listen to any books for the month of November. While I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, I figured a fiction fast would get my imagination churning enough that I would be more motivated to write. That was the idea. It lasted a week. The problem is that my day job currently consists of a lot of data entry and other monotimous tasks that tend to become mind numbing fairly quickly. I tried listening to music, for a whole week I tried. But that entire week I felt like my mind would explode, I was just so board. Then I broke down and started listening to audio books again. And what do you know, I’m back to loving data entry. It’s a great background activity to listening. My current plan is to listen to audio books while at work, but to focus my free time on writing (not reading or listening) while at home. I’m not writing anywhere near NaNoWriMo type word counts, but I’m writing more than I did in October. And I feel much more content.

Since I’m busy breaking rules, now I’m going to break another big rule – I’m gonna talk about religion. Because one of the books I listened to this week was “The Shack” by William P. Young. The book came recomended to me by a nun, an evangelical prodostant, and a devout egnostic. It is a good book, my guess is that most people in the world who consider themselves Christians will really like this book. It is well written, thought provoking, and it questions modern consepts of religion just enough to enable people to rexamine their faith without fully destroying it.

My own reaction to the book was surprisingly positive. I never felt offended while listening to it, and I often felt myself agreeing with its message. But I don’t tend to think of myself as Christian. This doesn’t mean I’m a devout athiest either. I often describe myself as a resent convert to hethenism. When I was a kid, I was a total nerd. I got straight A’s in everything, including Sunday school. I didn’t know how to read, so I aquired an audio version of the bible. Then I memorized it. In Sunday school when the other kids memorized individual bible verses, I would show up having memorized entire books.

Being a non-reader, I’ve always had a strong tie to the idea of oral tradition. I have never questioned the idea that in the first century AD, very few people knew how to read. That doesn’t mean that people didn’t know the scriptures, it means that people memorized the stories and told them alloud – the same why I still listen to audio books while doing data entry. I, therefore, deduced that none of the New Testimate could be properly understood if the entire Old Testimate wasn’t first memorized. The early Christians were all just as devout of Talmudic scholars and the average orthodox Jew of today. And the sudtle refrence to Talmudic scripture in the gospils and appisles weren’t intended to be suttle.

So I know my scriptures. I have also done a fair amount of study into the men who wrote them down and their political and religious motivations for writing them. But I don’t call myself a Christian. Not because I don’t believe in God, because I do. I just don’t like the way so many Christian’s spout hate in the name of God and try to scare people into faith. Most of modern Christianity is entirely alien to the concept of God I discovered by memorizing the Bible as a kid. But I liked “The Shack”. There is one line in it where the character of Jesus says, “I’m not a Christian.” And I have to admit that line made me smile.

Anyone reading “The Shack” should go into it knowing that three of the major characters in the books are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – it is a very religions book that can only be enjoyed or understood from a religions point of view. But God the Father is a fat African American Woman, and most of the other common conceptions precented in contemperary religion are questioned. I beat enough ordained ministers at bible trivial games as a kid to know that I’m familiar with the scriptures. And while “The Shack” doesn’t quote the bible, it really doesn’t contridict it either. And the African American Female God that lives in a shack in the woods, is more like the Holy Father whose stories I memorized in my youth, than the wrathful God Christian’s so often quote when preaching hatered.

So if you are a nun, or an evangelocal prodistant, or an devout egnostic, I would recommend “The Shack”. It is an interesting read about a broken spirits face to face encounter with God. It uplifts, and encourages thought, and attempts to puts a new more loving face on a creater that never wanted to be seen as wrathful.

Joke of the Day
Bob and a rabbi and a priest are walking together. Bob turns to the rabbi and asked, "I know in your religion you aren't supposed to eat pork, but have you ever tasted it?"
"I must confess," the rabbi replies. "There was one time when I did taste pork."
Bob then turns to the priest and asked, "You are supposed to be celebate, but have you..."
The priest cuts him off and admits, "Yes, there was one time I succome to my temptations."
The rabbi then turned to the priest and said, "It's better than pork, isn't it."

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Rise of the E-book

I follow enough publishing industry blogs to know that a lot of people are seeing e-books as the end of reading as we know it. Barns and Noble resently released the Nook, their new e-reader sure to give Amazon's kindle a run for its money that will also help the worlds largest book store stay in business when people start refusing to shop in book stores.

But tonight on my comute home, I heard a story on NPR that brought the end of paper books into reality sooner that I had suspected. I have always thought that e-books would surpass paper books in market share once kids started getting e-readers at school instead of paper text books. Once school children become used to reading e-books and ever student has an e-reader the transition away from paper books will be impossible. Not only will kids in school consume all their pleasure reading on their school issued e-reader but they will then grow up to be adults fully committed to the idea of e-reading.

Well according to the good people at All Things Considered, there is a private school in Massicusits that has gotten rid of all the paper books in their school library. All the kids have laptops and kindles and the library is investing only in e-books and online refrence material. Right now this is just one private school in New England, but how long will it take before all the public schools across the country are following suit. When kids can't get paper books at their school library - the e-book is here to stay.

I feel so thankful that I got a kindle for my birthday last summer. I would hate to be bested by a bunch of spoiled brat kids.

Joke of the Day
You know technology has taken over your life when you consider your many gadgets friends, but you forgot to send your father a birthday card.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Good Writing vs Good Story Telling

When I grow up, I want to be an author. So becoming a good writer should be at the top of my to do list. But lately I've been thinking that good story telling is infanately more important. How many times have I heard people say, Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown or some other mega best selling author is a bad writer. These nagative comments could come out of gelousy, or they could be based on the occational poorly constructed sentance. By lets be honest, does it matter? Nobody cares if Dan Brown can't write like William Faulkner - because he can tell a story like Dan Brown.

An authors ability to come up with an interesting story idea that is unlike anything else and then to tell it a gripping and exciting way is what makes readers buy books. If the grammer is all wrong and the writing is so overly flowery that it becomes distracting people will notice. But who really freeks out over the occational adverb? I honestly don't think there is all that much of a difference between the quality of writing in the average high school students English paper and the average best selling novel. The difference is all in the story telling.

So what is involved in good story telling? The characters need to be interesting and relatable. The plot has to be fast paced enough to keep the reader interested. The events need to be original enough that the story stands out against the many other tales available. If the story teller can touch the reader/listeners emtions via laughter, sorrow, fear, ect that's great too. And that is really it.

Maybe that is what people mean when they talk about good writing. The ability to make characters come to life on the page, to grab the readers and not let go, and to make an emotional connection with the audience. So where does sentance structure come in? My answer is, no where. Stringing words together in coherent sentances has nothing to do with great books. Great books are always well told accounts of great stories.

So I'm giving up on becoming a great writer. My spelling sucks, and I often think in run on sentances. All I want to do is make up stories. Sometimes I make up stories that are seriously boring. Usually I have enough forsight to not write those stories down. My latest novel is a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set at a high school summer camp. It's a fun story, but I don't know how great it is. I mean, obvoisly it's not totally original - it is a remake of Shakespere after all. But I'll keep dreaming, and I'll keep writing, and with a little luck oneday I will become a great storyteller.

Joke of the Day
A dyslexic entered a spelling bee and came in SALT.

Friday, November 6, 2009

10,000 Hours to Success

I’m undergoing a fiction fast and not reading or listening to any books for the entire month of November. This means that I can’t blog about all the books I’m currently reading. So instead, I’ll blog about a book I read last summer. “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell is all about what it takes to become an expert at anything. Gladwells answer: 10,000 hours of practice. Gladwell hypothosises that natural ability has almost no impact on success, and that completing 10,000 hours of practice means everything.

Regardless of the truth of Gladwell’s book, it seems to take the world a year to catch onto trends. “Outliers” was published last November, and now all of a sudden everywhere I turn I hear people talking about the 10,000 hours rule. Since I was apparently ahead of the curve on the tipping point for this trend (seeing as how I listened to “Outliers” six months after it was published instead of twelve) I’ll add my voice to the growing debate now.

I do disagree with Gladwell on one major issue. I think that natural tallent matters a lot at the beginning. If the 10,000 hours rule is true, I would be tempted to claim that people without natural talent are weeded out after the first 1,000 hours. In the amiture levels there is a lot of emphisis placed on natural ability and the people who don’t have inharent talent are almost never given the opportunity (or modivation) to put in the practice. So successful people are vertually always naturaly talented in their chosen field – they just practiced a lot too.

Now lets look at the 10,000 hours rule. The only example I’m going to use here is myself, if you want better examples, read Gladwell. I am an engineer by trade. I have been working in this field for 4.5 years, before that I had 3 years of engineering school. Assuming I currently spend 40 hours per week 50 weeks per year engineering, and I spent 20 hours per week 36 weeks per year while in school, I have currently spent 11,160 hours practicing engineering. Am I an expert engineer? Hard to say. Clearly I know more than I did back when I was in school, but I still depend on the expertice of many of my co-workers in some areas. Do I have natural talent in engineering? Probably – if I didn’t I would have been weeded out my first year of engineering school.

Next field – writing. I’ve written two novels, one that sucked and one that I think is good and I am currently querying. I’m also half way through a memoir, I wrote a bunch of papers back in high school and college, plus I’ve been writing this blog for about a year. My guess is that all this time writing adds up to about 3,000 hours. No where near 10,000. So I shouldn’t be considered an expert writer yet. That is probably a good thing – I’m sure there are lots of tricks to the trade I still need to learn.

But what defines an expert writer? I think I have natural talent, I would have quit writing a long time ago if I didn’t. But I’m also a fast writer. Back in college I used to average 20 minutes per page when writing papers (10 page paper = make sure to start in at least 3.5 hours before its due). I would estimate that I spent approximately 800 hours writing my last novel, and I honestly think it is good. So do I need to write 8 more books to finish my 10,000 hours before I can get anything published? Or does that just mean that my eighth novel is going to be the one that moves me from a midlister to a best seller?

A standard four year college education gives people about 3,000 hours of practice. Two more years of graduate school only amounts to 5,000 hours. Obviously on the job learning happens in every profession. But people get jobs all the time who aren’t “experts”. When it comes to the arts is there also room for income involved with on the job learning? Can a writer continue to grow their craft while a published mid-list writer? Can a painter have a few small gallery shows early on before breaking into the major museaums? Can a musician tour small venues before they top the bill board charts? Logic would say yes. Even Gladwell would say that artists often do get paid before they become experts. It is that early oppertunity/encouragement that enables artists to reach their 10,000 hours.

So I’m setting myself goals I hope are realistic. I want to be a writer. I want to find an agent and publisher for my latest novel. I believe that it is the best novel I can currently write. But I also trust that it isn’t the best book I will ever write. I hope that this novel makes is solidly into the mid-list. And I hope that as I continue to write, I will one day become an expert capable of a spot on the top of the New York Times Best seller list. But I’ve only done 3,000 hours. I’m not there yet. I just don’t want to believe 10,000 hours is required to get an agent.
Joke of the Day
A doctor, a civil engineer, and a consultant were arguing about the worlds oldest profession. The doctor said, "In the Bible it says God created Eve from a rib taken from Adam. Clearly surgery is the worlds oldest profession."
THe civil engineer then said, "But before God created Adam, he created the order of the heavens and the earth out of the chaos. THis was the first and most spectacular application of civil enigineering. So mine is the oldest profession."
Then the consultant said, "But who do you think created teh chaos?"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Trouble With Tracking

The practice of dividing students into leveled tracks is making its way back into national debate. The current problem people are finding with tracking is racial and economic discrimination. The idea is that leveled tracks often work well for the very best and very worst students, but don’t properly serve the vast middle. As a result affluent students are often pushed into higher tracks over poor or minority students who may be equilly capable of success. Well, I’m a white girl who grew up in an affluent suburb and then went onto a pristigious college, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have strong opinons when it comes to tracking.

I’ve never been a member of the vast middle and don’t know what kind of injustice is being inflicted on those students. But I can tell you all about strattling the fringes. When I was in elementry school tracking wasn’t questioned by anyone, it was simply a given. The problem was that nobody knew where to put me, so they cut me into peices and stuck a limb in every box.

In fifth grade, I was placed in five different tracks. I was constantly being pulled out of my main classroom as I was carted around from one special class to another. On Thursdays I only spent 20 minutes in my mainstream classroom. I remember the anomily of those fifth grade Thursdays, because those were the days that my time in the special ed classroom and my time in the talent and gifted program overlapped. One of the TAG kids would have to walk down to the resource room and pick me up.

I consider myself lucky. Somehow in the 1980’s, when a kid had a very high IQ and didn’t know their ABC’s people paid more attention to the high IQ. The other special ed kids didn’t understand me, but the TAG kids accepted me without questions. I was their resident Rain Man, and provided them with endless entertainment. By the time I got to high school, bonehead English was the only non-honors class in my schedule. My time in special ed was short lived and the world chose to listen to me when I insisted that I wasn’t stupid – just illiterate.

I still wonder about kids today. I know one student currently deep in the confineds of special education. Everytime I talk to her, I’m shocked by how little she knows. It’s like she is a teenager trapped in the mind of a small child, but her developmental disabilities aren’t that sevier. I know her, and I know she could achieve much much more if she really tried. But she doesn’t try, and the system doesn’t expect her too. She was placed in the basement track, and nobody expects her to achieve anything.

How many learning disabled children with high IQ’s, boundless determination, and no comprehension of the alphabet are getting slouted into special ed only to be forgotten. I don’t think they give IQ tests in elementry schools anymore. Does anyone even know that these children belong in half a dozen tracks, not just one?

Joke of the Day
A man walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender is a robot that askes, "What is your IQ?" while preparing the cocktail. The man replies "150" and the robot proceeds to talk to him about global warming, string theory, nano technology, and quantum physics. The customer is impressed, so after he finishes his drink he leaves and then reenters. This time when the bartender asks him his IQ, the man says 100. The robot then talks to him about NASCAR, gun control, supermodels, and baseball. Again when the man finishes his drink he leaves and reenters. This time he tell the robot bartender that his IQ is 50. The robot replies very slowly, "So...ya reelect...the mayor?"

Monday, November 2, 2009


November is officially National Novel Writing Month. It involves thousands of people all across the country attempting to write an entire novel in the course of one month. It also leads to lots of agents hating the month of December when they recieve submissions for lots of frantically written and completely unpolished novels. I do have a lot of respect for the writers who view NaNoWriMo as an inspiration to finish their rough draft and then go on to spend several more months pollishing their manuscript. Still I haven’t signed myself up for NaNoWriMo and I don’t plan on finishing my next novel before November 30th.

But I have decided to allow the NaNoWriMo hype to inspire me to write. Here is a brief history of my writing life. Back in April of 2008 I got a book idea and sat down to write myself a few notes about it so that when I found the time to write I wouldn’t forget my idea. Once I started writing I got totally obsessed and couldn’t stop. Four months later I completed the first draft of CAMP LIFE. I then spent the next four months polishing and repolishing so on Dec 31st 2008, I finished my 5th draft. I then passed it off to a bunch of beta readers and finally got around to picking up their comments and finishing the 6th draft in July. I started submitting CAMP LIFE to agents in August.

In January of 2009 I started writing THE GIANT IN THE ATTIC, my memoir about how I became an illiterate author. Since I’m totally egomanical, I’m sure that this book will one day make me millions. Unfortunately, writing non-fiction isn’t all that fun. So in 10 months, I’m only half way through the first draft. Instead of completing a draft a month, lately I’ve been writing about a chapter a month. But I’ve been reading/listening to five books a week, so that counts for something right? I do plan on finishing THE GIANT IN THE ATTIC, because I think educating the world about dyslexia is important. But I don’t plan on finishing it anytime soon. Instead, I need to face the truth about myself and just write some more fiction – cause that is actually fun.

So in owner of NaNoWriMo, I started my second novel on November 1st, 2009. I have no plans or expectations of finishing it on November 30th. But I am making a few life changes during the month of November to encourage myself to write. First – I deleated all the audiobooks from my I-pod and will not listen to a single book until December. I am also going to leave my kindle at home for the entire month of November and instead take my laptop with me on the train to and from work. This absence of fiction will most likely drive me completely insane. Fortunately, I tend to lean toward the creative form of crazy. Once I’m unable to fill my imagination with the fiction of others, I’ll be forced to come up with my own. Who knows, maybe I will have a draft done before November 30th after all. I’ll keep you posted.

Joke of the Day
Once there were three men in the desert. One had bread, one had water, and one had a car door. The one with the water and the one with the car door asked the one with the bread, "Why do you have the bread?"
He said, "So if I get hungry, I can eat it."
The one with the bread and the one with the car door asked the one with the water, "Why do you have the water?"
He said, "So if I get thursty, I can drink it."
The one with the bread and the one with the water asked the one with the car door, "Why do you have the car door?"
He said, "So if I get hot, I can roll down the window."